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Douglas Salmon
Douglas Salmon. Photo courtesy of Beverley Salmon

Recognizing a Trailblazer

An award for black medical students honours a Toronto surgeon

With her family, Beverley created the Dr. J. Douglas Salmon Award for Black Medical Students in honour of her late husband. Douglas graduated from medicine at U of T in 1955, after earning a BA in 1951

Beverley Salmon: “Douglas was born in 1923, the youngest of six children. His mother and father both died when he was a child, and a widowed aunt took in all of the children. She had been trained as a nurse, but because of racism at that time was unable to work as one. They had very little money.

Douglas was channelled into “commercial” courses in high school. He graduated at the top of his class, but wanted to attend university – so he went back to high school for two years in the evenings to get the subjects he needed. He worked during the day.

At U of T, he was one of only four black students in his medical school class. He received a scholarship, but to cover his expenses he also worked part-time. In second year, he was voted class president.

His family and friends knew what a struggle it was for him to pay his way through university. We also knew how much he benefited from the scholarship he received: he went on to become a very successful surgeon. We wanted to extend the same opportunity to students today.

Douglas and the other black medical students in his class really had to assert themselves to get a good placement, even though they all graduated in the top third of their class. I think even today black students have to prove themselves by working harder.”

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